Friday, August 29, 2008
Reading List: AK47: The Story of the People's Gun
- Hodges, Michael. AK47: The Story of the People's Gun. London: Sceptre, 2007. ISBN 978-0-340-92106-7.
AK-47 (the author
uses “AK47” in this book, except for a few
places in the last chapter; I will use the more common
hyphenated designation here) has become an iconic symbol
of rebellion in the six decades since
Kalashnikov designed this simple (just 8 moving parts), rugged,
inexpensive to manufacture, and reliable assault rifle. Iconic? Yes,
indeed—for example the
feature this weapon which played such a large and tragic rôle in
its recent history. Wherever violence erupts around the world, you'll
probably see young men brandishing AK-47s or one of its derivatives.
The AK-47 has become a global brand as powerful as Coca-Cola, but
symbolising insurgency and rebellion, and this book is an attempt to
recount how that came to be.
Toward that end it is a total, abject, and utter failure. In a total
of 225 pages, only about 35 are devoted to Mikhail Kalashnikov, the
history of the weapon he invented, its subsequent diffusion and
manufacture around the world, and its derivatives. Instead, what we
have is a collection of war stories from Vietnam, Palestine, the
Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, and New Orleans (!), all told from a
relentlessly left-wing, anti-American, and anti-Israel perspective, in
which the AK-47 figures only peripherally. The
author, as a hard leftist, believes,
in the bizarre notion that an inanimate object made of metal
and wood can compel human beings to behave in irrational
and ultimately self-destructive ways. You think I exaggerate?
Well, here's an extended quote from p. 131.
The AK47 moved from being a tool of the conflict to the cause of the conflict, and by the mid-1990s it had become the progenitor of indiscriminate terror across huge swaths of the continent. How could it be otherwise? AKs were everywhere, and their ubiquity made stability a rare commodity as even the smallest groups could bring to bear a military pressure out of proportion to their actual size.That's right—the existence of weapons compels human beings, who would presumably otherwise live together in harmony, to murder one another and rend their societies into chaotic, blood-soaked Hell-holes. Yup, and why do the birds always nest in the white areas? The concept that one should look at the absence of civil society as the progenitor of violence never enters the picture here. It is the evil weapon which is at fault, not the failed doctrines to which the author clings, which have wrought such suffering across the globe. Homo sapiens is a violent species, and our history has been one of constant battles. Notwithstanding the horrific bloodletting of the twentieth century, on a per-capita basis, death from violent conflict has fallen to an all-time low in the nation-state era, notwithstanding the advent of of weapons such as General Kalashnikov's. When bad ideas turn murderous, machetes will do. A U.S edition is now available, but as of this date only in hardcover.
Posted at August 29, 2008 23:44